MIAMI, FL, Sporting Alert – Looking ahead of Saturday’s English Premier League openers, here are the two key players I believe could sit for precaution reasons.
Both Diego Costa of Chelsea and Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris have injuries that their respective managers will not want to make worse.
Costa’s Muscles Just Won’t Heal
Defending champions Chelsea have a major concern in front of goal with leading striker Costa listed as a major doubt for the season opener against Swansea City.
The Spanish international picked up a hamstring problem during the International Champions Cup preseason game against Paris Saint Germain, which forced him to miss the Community Shield defeat against Arsenal and the final warmup clash in midweek against Fiorentina.
Blues boss Jose Mourinho seems somewhat calm about the problem, but he must be some concerns over the possibility of Costa missing the opening game of the season.
Costa is expected to have a fitness test, but given his track record with hamstring injuries, it is highly unlikely that the forward will start.
Mourinho knows that a premature return for the former Atletico Madrid striker could see him aggravating the muscle again, which means the player could be on the sidelines for longer than first predicted.
If I had to pick, then I would say, Costa will not start against Swansea City.
It would be too risky for the champions, seeing that it is just the first game of the season and there is a long way to go and lots of football to be played during the term.
Remy or Falcao ?
This leads me to look at the two options.
Although none of these strikers have been convincing, Mourinho will have to select either Loic Remy or Radamel Falcao to lead his attacking line.
The signs are pointing towards Remy getting the nod on Saturday.
The frontman, who previously featured for former Newcastle and QPR – started against Arsenal last weekend, and although I do not think Mourinho is totally convinced about his ability to be a top striker, it’s clear that he trusts the Frenchman more than Falcao.
Against the Gunners in the Community Shield defeat, both Remy and Falcao were disappointing and will need to do more if Chelsea are going to defend their Premier League crown.
I am also not convinced Falcao will do any better than he did during his loan spell at Manchester United last season and the Colombian could spend the major part of his time at Stamford Bridge sitting on the bench and playing domestic cup tournaments.
By the way, do you remember what former Liverpool and England midfielder Jamie Redknapp had to say on Sky Sports News HQ?
“He’s (Falcao) going to find himself on the bench an awful lot next year,” Redknapp recalled.
“I watched Radamel Falcao in his Atletico Madrid days and he was one of the best centre forwards I think I’ve ever seen.
“Now he’s gone to Chelsea and probably what Chelsea need is a striker that’s going to be happy not to play, and maybe have to fill in at times when there is an injury, because you look at the players he’s going to be contending with like Diego Costa, who is going to be first choice.”
Come Saturday, I am predicting that Mourinho will go with Remy, as Costa will not be ready and Falcao just isn’t what he used to be before his leg injury.
Took Risky For Lloris In Goal
This now leads me to Old Trafford where Tottenham must make a decision over first choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris against Manchester United.
Again I am backing Mauricio Pochettino to do the right thing and not risk the Frenchman, as he certainly isn’t ready to play 90 minutes – even if it is in the goal.
Lloris made his return from a wrist injury in the second half of the Audi Cup third place game against AC Milan in midweek, but it is highly unlikely that he will play against Manchester United.
The France captain was very limited against AC Milan and was only forced into pulling down a few high deliveries out of the air in a game that didn’t really test his wrist to face the likes of Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay, Ashley Young and Juan Mata.
Not Ready For 90 minutes Means Not Ready To Play
Pochettino was hoping for a more active workout for his No. 1, but because that didn’t happen he could very well stick with Michel Vorm between the sticks.
“We have a good feeling for Hugo (Lloris), maybe not to compete for 90 minutes, but to be in the squad,” Pochettino said.
Obviously if Lloris is not able to play 90 minutes, it would be pointless to start him in goal, as it could create a problem if he had to leave the game early and Tottenham were to have further problems during the contest.
So there you have it, those are my highlighted backings for this weekend kick-offs.
Remy to start against Swansea City ahead of Falcao with Costa injured and Lloris to be rested another week and Vorm starting against Manchester United.